Islam: The Public and Private Spheres

11th Social Research conference at The New School
Islam: The Public and Private Spheres
December 5-7, 2002
John Tishman Auditorium 66 West 12th Street, NYC


Papers from the conference are published in Social Research Volume 70, Number 3 (Fall 2003). Audio of the complete conference and Q&A is available (in MP3 files).


For the past three years, Social Research has engaged in an international exploration of the subject of Privacy. Because the concept of privacy, and therefore of what constitutes a threat to privacy, is socially constructed, and as such contingent on particular cultures, a full understanding of what “privacy” means demands cross-cultural exploration.

Islam: The Public and Private Spheres, will be the third and final conference in this series, and will take place at New School University in December 2002. This conference will look at the great variety in Muslim societies (both Shi’i and Sunni), and the way notions of public and private are understood and articulated across these societies. Definitions of public and private are central to the relationship between religion and state, as well the development of civil society. These distinctions are also key to defining boundaries between the state, the community, the family, and the individual. A primary concern will be addressing these distinctions in as many different societies as possible, including Islamic theocracies, non-theocratic Muslim states, and Islamic communities in the diaspora, whether these societies are located in the Middle East, South Asia, Indonesia, or the West.


Thursday, December 5th

Keynote Address: Understandings of public and private in Islamic societies

6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
: Mohsen Kadivar, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tarbiat Modares University, Iran; Visiting Scholar, Islamic Legal Studies, Harvard Law School, Harvard University; author of Theories of State in Shiite Fiqh.

Friday, December 6th

Islamic Law - Boundaries and Rights: Case Studies

How are questions of boundaries and rights negotiated in states governed by Sharia? How do these negotiations compare with those in predominantly Muslim states governed by civil law, or possibly Islamic communities in the diaspora?
: Talal Asad, Professor of Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center
Confirmed Speakers
: Baber Johansen, Director d'etudes at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, Brinkley Messick, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, Roy Mottahedeh, Gurnery Professor of History, Harvard University, Frank Vogel, Two Holy Mosques Adjunct Professor of Islamic Legal Studies, Harvard Law School, Harvard University

Individual, Family, Community and State: Case Studies

1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
What is the concept of the individual? How are distinctions between public and private articulated within and across the boundaries of individual, family, community and state?
Moderator: Leila Ahmed, Professor of Women's Studies and Religion, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University
Confirmed Speakers: Juan Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan, Nilufer Gole, Professor of Sociology, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, Mehrangiz Kar, Human Rights Lawyer, Writer, Essayist, and Former Editor of the now-banned Zan literary review, Saba Mahmood, Assistant Professor of the History of Religions, the Divinity School, University of Chicago

Media and Information: Case Studies

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Moderator: Kian Tajbakhsh, Senior Research Fellow, Milano Graduate School, New School University & , Sociology, Tehran University
Confirmed Speakers: Jon Anderson, Professor of Anthropology, Catholic University, Geneive Abdo, Author and Former Tehran correspondent for The Guardian (London), Hafez al-MiraziWashington Bureau Chief, Al-Jazeera Television
Hassan Mneimneh, Journalist and Co-director, Iraq Documentation Project

Saturday, December 7th

10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Representations of Privacy in Literature and Film: Case Studies. How are the concepts of privacy and the private sphere interpreted and represented in literature and film? Art imitating life/life imitating art?
: Farhad Kazemi, Professor of Politics and Middle Eastern Studies, New York University
Confirmed Speakers: Hamid Dabishi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures and Director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University
Assia Djebar, Novelist, Filmmaker and Professor of French, New York University, Azar Nafisi, Visiting Professor and Director of the SAIS Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University Orhan Pamuk, Novelist

Film Screening and Discussion

2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(Iran, 1975), A film by Amir Naderi
The film will be followed by a discussion between Mr. Naderi and Hamid Dabashi focusing on how privacy is represented in this and other of his films.
Moderator: Hamid Dabashi


The director and founder (1988) of the Social Research conference series is Arien Mack, Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, who has been the editor of Social Research since 1970. For the history of the conference series, visit the Social Research conference series site. For information about other public events at The New School, see the university calendar. Find information about the more than 70 degree programs offered at The New School. For general information about The New School, visit the Quick Facts page.


The conference was made possible with generous support from the Open Society Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation and an anonymou

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